High school to form phone policy committee

Sep 13, 2023

Wareham High School has maintained the same phone policy since 2012, but a grant from the state’s Education Department could lead to changes this year. 

This $25,000 grant will allow the high school to form a committee for the policy’s review, with enough left over to go toward any supplies deemed necessary to enforce the future policy.

The current policy allows students to use their phones during lunch and in the halls between classes, but the device otherwise has to be turned off and put away.

Violation of this policy results in one or more of the following consequences: confiscation, detention or suspension at the discretion of the principal.

During the Thursday, Aug. 31 School Committee meeting, this year’s student representative on the committee, Gisella Priestley, announced the school would be more strict with the policy. 

Now, there is a three step disciplinary process for phone usage during class, according to Priestley. The teacher will first give a warning, then after the second offense, they will confiscate the phone and a third offense results in going to see the principal. 

Wareham High School Principal Scott Palladino said the school let its guard down on cell phone usage during the Covid pandemic. 

Palladino said he anticipates the phone policy committee to have its first report ready to present to the School Committee by early November.

School Committee Chair Kevin Brogioli said, “I'm in favor of anything that gets distractions away from the students and promotes learning and I think it's pretty clear that cell phones in the classroom generally are more of a distraction than a positive tool at this time.”

Priestley said, “I think having a little bit of a disconnect from our phones is a good thing right now.”

 “We still use technology in our class to help elevate our learning experience,” she added. “I think having a bit of a separation from our phones, and having our focus on the specific type of learning will benefit us — even if it can be uncomfortable sometimes.”

However, she said the policy could be more lenient for upperclassmen as they begin to reach adulthood.

“I feel like distraction has a negative connotation. We do need to remember that phones are more than just a device to play games on. They're also another way to learn and not just socially learn, but learn creatively, and every single other aspect of learning,” she said.

Priestley said she doesn’t believe a policy where teachers collect phones at the start of class would benefit students. 

She said students want access to their phones in case of an emergency and teachers shouldn’t waste class time on trying to get every student’s phone.

Wareham High School Dean Charlene Dineen said she typically meets with the students who have violated the phone policy.

Dineen added she has seen an increase in those meetings in recent years.

“There's no bigger classroom distraction than the kids' phones,” she said. “At this point, many of them are used to having it in their hand 24/7, and so when they're being asked to not have it in their hands and put it away, it's a real struggle for them.”

Dineen added one of the main issues is how addicted the students are to scrolling through social media sites, but she is also concerned with the way these devices can amplify social problems.

“Because of the constant access to each other, it really kind of explodes,” she said.

Instead of having a break from one another while in another class or at home, the students maintain the ability to draw out and intensify social conflicts.

“I think probably the most important piece of the puzzle is parental support,” Dineen said. “A lot of times when kids are on their phones, they actually are communicating with parents and other family members.”

She said more “oversight” from both parties could help limit these distractions in the classroom.

“I think just generally when the school and the parents and the community can work together, if we're all on the same page with something, it absolutely can improve,” Dineen said. “I know it's only been three weeks into the school year, but we have seen an improvement this year compared to where we were last June with cell phones.”